Sunday, August 28, 2011

Last Letter from a Colleague

Last week I saw the last email sent by a colleague who was let go by the company as part of the reduction program announced recently. I can't forward his email, and despite his joke in the email saying he's part of the 'winners' list who will get 6 months of advanced salary payment, I can see lots of disappointments in his other words.

His name sounds familiar, so I decided to google him. The result: author and co-author of many patents, several IETF RFCs, many Internet drafts, and speaker in International events, member of International forums, to name a few of his achievements in 5 minutes googling.

I can't stop asking myself: why can a good technical person get fired?
In a company that really focuses on new innovation?
In a company that relies on engineering excellence?

Can someone really stays technical in career?
Is it true that no one is indispensable?

After couple of days thinking, there are three reasons that I can come up of why even a good technical person can be let go by the company.

First, many companies appreciate what we did in the past, but I bet they can keep only those who can contribute for today's business and support the companies' future vision. It means even I did something spectacular in the past it may not be enough for the company today, especially if I am considered obsolete.

Second, as I mentioned in my other post it's really difficult to justify and evaluate a technical person. Sales person has a target number associated with her, if she can achieve or even go beyond that it means she's successful. How about a technical person? From the number of patents? From the feedback from the customers? From the number of initiatives?

Third, no matter how valuable I am I may still be out of the team if I'm not a team player. Unless someone has reached the top notch level, gained respectable reputation in the industry, and has become legend, no individual can survive by working alone. It's about making connection.

I may be wrong. I may be too naive.
You are more than welcome to share your thoughts here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beyond CLI

So you passed CCIE yesterday. Congratulations.

Now what?

Don't stop learning. The lab exam forces you to know lots of concepts in IP network, to implement them by putting the configuration in the network devices using CLI*, to run all the protocols and features in a complex scenario, to debug and troubleshoot the problems. Not to forget all the non-technical aspect such as to work under the pressure and very tight timeline, to make lots of quick decisions, to learn how to find the information and to ask the right question.

But that's all.

With all my respect to CCIE program, there are lots more you need to learn when it comes to the real production network. There are lot of things you need to understand outside the topics asked in the lab exam.

There is a difference between running a feature, and running a feature with scalability, for example. Configuring BGP with route-reflector and lots of route policy, with multiple address-family and community set, seems like a piece of art. But will the same setup work when there are hundred of thousands IP prefixes? When thousands of prefixes are using /32 and /31? When the route-policy needs to balance the utilization between links to multiple upstream providers?

Multicast means a network device needs to do the replication from one incoming packet to multiple packets and send them each to interested outgoing interfaces. Who is doing the replication inside the device? Incoming or ingress side, or outgoing aka egress? Why does it matter? If the device is doing replication on ingress side it may congest the backplane or switch fabric in between the incoming and outgoing interface. If the replication is done on egress side, who should do the lookup to see which interfaces are interested? And how?

High availability, beyond the OSPF fast convergence configuration that you can copy paste from the documentation to the device console. Will you rely on IGP FC or would like to use MPLS TE? When the link fails, how to detect and inform the upper layer protocol? Will BGP flush the whole table immediately when the next hop is not reachable?

Talking about passing layer 2 over pseudowire, do the devices need to learn about the Mac address? If yes, how many number of Mac address maximum it can handle? How to carry the customer dot1q tag transparently? Can you bridge and route at the same time? How about the layer 2 mechanism to break the loop, how to integrate it with the pseudo wire network?

Which traffic needs to be protected when there is congestion? How if you have business customers and residential coming from the same physical interfaces? Will you use sub-interface to identify them or just match based on VLAN? Do you shape the residential or let them take the whole bandwidth when the business is not using it? How about protecting the voice traffic inside one type of customer? How many layers of QoS mechanism can you go?

What will happen if one of the Route Processor fails? What will happen if there is line card inserted when the device is online? What will happen if one switch fabric fails when the traffic is passing through?

What is In Service Software Upgrade? Can it really happen?

How about stress test? How to ensure the CPU can handle and process the request when it receives hundreds of thousands routes at the same time? What if the neighbor flaps during the process? Will you even consider to implement dampening?

How to protect the CPU when there is flooding in the control plane? And the most important, how to ensure the forwarding packet is not disrupted even when the CPU stays 100%?

And don't forget about interoperability. Interoperability of products from two different vendors, some bits may need to be changed even when you try to have a simple physical connection between two different vendors using Sonet. Interoperability of products from the same vendor but using different software. Interoperability between network devices and any other components in the network like load balancer, security devices, caching and clustered servers?

Typing fast in the console is not the most important anymore.
There are lots more beyond CLI.

And we are just talking about a small portion of the technical aspect here.

CCIE really is just a beginning.

*A command-line interface (CLI) is a mechanism for interacting with a network device operating system or software by typing commands to perform specific tasks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

10 Tips for Backpacking in Europe

I've been traveling a lot but it's usually part of business trip with the company. So the plan is always fixed, the flight and hotel are booked far in advance, and there is travel agent from the company taking care of everything.

I've been in Hungary for the project I'm currently working on, and I have opportunity to explore places in Europe during the weekend. So last weekend I decided to go to Vienna and take the night train to Venice, Italy. I made the plan only 2 days before the trip and booked everything from public website. Based on what I saw and experienced, I would like to share some tips:

1. These days backpacker doesn't have to use only backpack! You can use wheeled luggage if it makes it easier to move your stuff. And it won't hurt your back for sure.

2. Use the "Left Luggage" facility available on most destination airports or train stations. Leave your big heavy bag there and carry only the valuables or most important in a small bag so you can explore the place without burden. Pay attention to the opening hours of the Left Luggage facility or public toilet.

3. With airline, especially budget airline, you can get better price if you book far in advance and non-changeable flight ticket. But I don't see the different price with train ticket. The train network in Europe is very good, and it's a better choice for someone with no plan like me. The night train makes it possible to save some money for the hotel. Sleep inside the train, reach destination in the morning, freshen up in public toilet, enjoy the place for the day, take a hotel room for a night, enjoy the second day, take the night train to go back or to another place. Paying one night for hotel instead of three.

4. Cheap hotel can be found easily using Check the review. For train ticket I found that booking directly with the train company is easier and cheaper.

5. Don't buy heavy souvenirs. Buy the experience.

6. One purpose of traveling is to explore local custom and to taste local food and local drink. Be careful though, I've been lying on the hotel room bed in Hungary for 2 days due to the last seafood dinner that I had in Venice (and yes, it was delicious :))

7. Split some money and keep at least one credit card in one bag other than inside your wallet. Just in case you lose your wallet you still have them to go home.

8. Exchange the money at your place instead of at the destination. The exchange rate at the destination especially tourist area is very bad. And always carry some coins since most public facilities require them. Usually there is a coin machine nearby, but you never know perhaps you need to use the facility at night and the machine is broken.

9. Don't bring too many gadgets. Bring gadgets that use the same power charger, the one that can be charged using USB cable. You should carry all-in-one travel power plug adapter with USB output. Better to carry one multi-purpose gadget that can be used as phone, music player, camera and GPS.
Or go back to analog life. Bring paper notebook and pen so you can write your experience or thoughts inside the train without any fear of running out the battery. The notebook is useful too to write down important address and phone number just in case you lose your phone. You can always ditch your digital camera and shoot film like me :)

10. Don't over plan the trip. Just go and let loose. Don't even use map or GPS at the destination if necessary. Blend with the locals.

Will I do it again? Yes, for sure!

Europe is the best place for backpacking since there are many interesting places to visit, with different culture offering unique experiences. And many countries are part of European union with Schengen visa now. So once you are inside, there is no passport control anymore between country borders.

Until next time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Backpacking In Europe

After one week having fun testing the ASR9K and one new kick ass platform for the customer in Hungary, it's already weekend again which means another opportunity to explore Europe. I have options to either stay in the nice hotel during the weekend, or take 7 hours train from Vienna to Venice on Friday night, spending time there until Sunday night, and go back to Vienna on Monday early morning.

Small backpack. Night train. Weekend in Venice. Leica M6 and blackberry in hand. No plan. Don't know what to expect.

It was not really difficult for me to decide.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When We Travel

My friend once told me she doesn't like to travel. Any information about the other part of the world is available on the Internet anyway. She prefers to sit at home and watch National Geographic channel that can make her feel smarter without having to spend money for the trip.

I believe she's missing the point completely.

I've been traveling extensively since I joined Cisco 5 years ago. Initially I didn't ask for it. It came to me. I was always be part of the team that covers multiple countries, even multiple continents. Within 5 years I've been in 25 countries, in most of the continents except Africa (will be there soon).

And now I feel like getting addicted to it. Because of many reasons and the experience beyond images and sound offered by TV or youtube.

When we travel, we have opportunity to smell the air, to taste the food, to mingle with the locals.

When we travel, we learn about the local cultures and the different mindset directly from the person.

When we travel, we are not seeing the world just as an observer. But we can get involved and blended with the people and our surrounding at the new places.

Nothing can match the experience.

No photos or videos can show the details. No words can describe the feeling. Not even this post.

You have to get out there and try it yourself.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Project Avatar @ Indonesia17

I really don't know how Project Avatar can end up as one candidate for Indonesia17, a poll made by Yahoo Indonesia to celebrate the country's Independence day.

But if you like what I did, perhaps you want to show it in the poll here. Thanks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Engineer vs. Many

"I find my manager is not useful. He is not aware about what's going on. In fact, he's not even a technical person. I'm running all the projects with the Project Manager, without my manager's interference. Why do we need manager then?"

"The project manager is useless. He's clueless, not technical, and inexperience in complex project like this. I'm making all the schedules, managing the resource, and building the plan for the project. It seems what we need just engineer and sales person"

"Our sales person doesn't sell. It's actually I as technical leader who does all the pre-sales work, convinces the customer about the solution, runs the demo and so on. It's practically a one man show, I can run the whole sales cycle from beginning until the closing by myself"

"The technical lead keeps everything for himself, he doesn't want to share his knowledge nor the information about the current setup. I have to struggle to finally understand the whole setup and the project. I'm wondering why he can be in the team."

Have you ever made any of the comments above? Don't be that guy.

You choose to be an engineer for a reason. A reason that you believe, or at least you used to believe. So be proud of being one.

And stop comparing. Because everyone has his own place.

Manager may not be technical but he has big responsibilities on his shoulder, including to manage the budget and expenses as well as to keep all the proud engineers in the team happy. Project Manager must manage the project and set the customer's expectation right from beginning, and she will be the first one who takes the heat when thing goes wrong (and something always goes wrong in every project) or when the schedule slips. Sales person carries a target number everywhere so she must know how to sell and to manage relationship with the customer, and be ready to get shouted when the engineers fail to deliver the setup. And the technical lead most likely is busy defending his design, leading the project, and coaching the younger engineers in the team at the same time, so he can't babysit someone for information that can be found easily within the project documentation.

And what I just mentioned is only a small portion of responsibilities and tasks from different roles above. Engineer may think he does the most work since he's in the field delivering the products or services to the customer. But there are lots more from the other parties that meet the eyes. Really.

But if you still think you could do better then those who are on the other side, why don't you try to switch place and prove it yourself? Try to be a manager, or a PM, or a sales person, or a tech lead and so on.

And let's see if you still can say the same comments as above.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Time for Africa

I'm currently in Dubai. For only few days before going back to Hungary.

I've just had my first Telepresence meeting with my new team. This is my 6th team since I joined Cisco Systems about 5 years ago. As part of the re-organization within Cisco now I'm with the Service Provider team that focuses on customers in Africa.

Last time I checked, I haven't put any pin in Africa countries yet. I did some project for Bostwana Telecom, but it was done remotely.

    So it's time for Africa.

    But I need to finish my current work in Europe first.

    Sunday, August 07, 2011

    No Competition

    "There is no real friend. There is no real competition. It's only real interest."

    I heard that quote more than 10 years ago. While so far I have proved that there is real friend indeed, I'm yet to see if the theory of no competition can be proved wrong too.

    Well, I think Google is trying to do that now.

    I have seen two companies, that are used to compete to each other, become partner. Or one eventually gets acquired by its competitor. Sometimes two companies are still competing in one area but partnering in some other area.

    Few days ago I saw this news about several Juniper sales executives landed (back) to Cisco. Imagine those who are used to compete with them, now will have them on board in the team.

    There is no real competition?

    And what does it tell us, the individual working as professional?

    I'd say we have to defend our product and to compete to win. I've never met anyone who wants to work in a company that doesn't want to win the competition. But always try to keep the competition healthy. Just prove why we are better and never be rude to the folk who works on the other side. Because you never know, someday he or she may switch to our team. Or you may have chance to switch, and you'd probably want to do that to see how does it feels to be on the other side.

    Google should've known better.

    Rise Above 1

    2.30 am Vienna time. Can't sleep. Too excited to fly back to Dubai this afternoon, I guess. Then found this cool song.

    At the same time I'm testing posting video from youtube using the new blogger editor. Looks good.

    Saturday, August 06, 2011

    Shopping in Europe

    One benefit of shopping in Europe is the tax refund for tourist. It means for the good with the same price in Dubai, will be cheaper due to the refund. In Austria I can get around 12% back from my purchase.

    I usually don't do shopping when travel. But it seems like I have to buy some nice thing for my wife who's been left for more than 2 weeks to handle my kids alone.

    I've been having fun in Hungary with EVC, pseudowire, xconnect, bridge domain, VFI, VPLS AD etc on ASR9K and ME3800-X with the new software release. And spending weekend in Vienna to make photos with my Leica M6 film camera and BlackBerry.

    It's time to share the happiness with the family.

    Friday, August 05, 2011

    10 Facts I Learned About Hungary

    Below are the 10 facts I learned about Hungary after my 2 weeks stay, and I swear I didn't use google when wrote them down! These are just the result from talking and hanging out with the locals.

    1. Summer in Hungary means mix between nice sunny day and cold rainy day, even storm sometimes.
    2. The capital city Budapest is split by Danube river into two areas called Buda and Pest. Buda is the richer area and place for the royal castle, and Pest is... let's just say where all the fun is :)
    3. Hungary moved away from communism system without any revolution in 1989. The ruling party decided to switch in a very smooth process and support the election a year later.
    4. People in general are very polite and friendly. The hospitality shown by the customer is still the best I've seen so far, even when there was disagreement during discussion.
    5. Even Hungary is part of Schengen, but they still use their local currency Forint.
    6. Győr is the city that is near from three capital cities. About one hour drive from Budapest, Vienna (Austria) and Bratislava (Slovakia). It's better to fly to Vienna and drive to Győr directly.
    7. English is not a common language here. Some adults learned Russian at school due to the past time when Soviet used to put large number of troops in the city. Some waiters speak German probably because there are many visitors from Austria during the weekend. Hungarian language is very different with the one in Czech or Slovakia, it's closer to Finnish.
    8. All Audi engines are made in Győr. This is the largest engine production plant in Europe.
    9. People seem to like ice cream here. Gelato is available in almost every corner in Győr.
    10. Hungarian girls are, ehm, interesting ;)

    Thursday, August 04, 2011

    (Un) Healthy Schedule

    3.30 am Fasting day starts
    7.00 am Walk to customer's office
    1.00 pm Continue working when customer have lunch
    6.00 pm Walk back to the hotel
    6.10 pm Continue working from the hotel
    8.20 pm Walk to restaurant to break the fasting
    8.30 pm Fasting day over, start the dinner
    10.00 pm Finish dinner with nice Gelato
    10.30 pm Back to hotel
    11.00 pm Write blog, browse Internet, watch TV while drink lots of water
    12.00 pm Go to bed

    Tuesday, August 02, 2011

    If You Could Only Have One Meal

    If you could only have one meal a day, what would it be?

    Fasting in Europe means to have dinner at 9 pm, and that's it. I found it's difficult to have another meal around 2 or 3 am. So whatever I had tonight will last for the next 24 hours.

    I don't know its name, because it's written in Hungarian and German in the menu, but I ordered one of the above to close my first dinner in this fasting month.

    Monday, August 01, 2011

    Fasting in Europe

    Spent whole day with a very nice Hungarian family. But it was tiring too at the same time. So I slept early and woke up to realize it's already pass midnight and I missed dinner.

    And tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan, the fasting month.

    Found this from the hotel's fridge. It's good enough for Suhoor (pre-dawn meal), I think. 

    It will be interesting to explain to the customer tomorrow why I can't join lunch as usual.

    And in Hungary, fasting day is from 3.30 am until 8.30 pm.

    Ramadan Kareem.